After the tremendous success of New Line Cinemas’ (and Director Peter Jackson’s) Lord of the Rings movies, film adaptations of JRR Tolkien’s epic novel, there is understandably plenty of speculation concerning a possible Hobbit movie.
|Ian Holm as an older Bilbo in |
New Line’s Fellowship of the Ring.
This page is an overview of the current situation and complex legal rights involved in the prospective filming of a Hobbitmovie. For the most recent breaking news and updates, check out the Tolkien News page.
New Line Cinemas, the studio who produced The Lord of the Rings movies, and currently owns the film rights to The Hobbit, has moved forward very slowly with preparations for the film.
Most of the information currently available is merely rumor. New Line is embroiled in a lawsuit with uber-popular Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, who claims the studio withheld profits from merchandising, computer games, and video games.
This lawsuit has seriously strained the relationship between Jackson and New Line studio head Bob Shaye, who mentioned late in 2006 that New Line would never work with Jackson again, and that preparation for a Hobbit film would move forward without him.
To further complicate things, many of the key actors from The Lord of the Rings movies – in particular Ian McKellan, who comprised the role of Gandalf – have expressed reservations about returning to their earlier roles without Jackson’s involvement.
MGM, who owns the Hobbit film’s distribution rights (I know, its like a big jigsaw puzzle of legal rights, I’ll explain more below), was similarly unhappy with New Line’s decision not to mend fences with Jackson.
Rumors flew early in 2007 concerning possible replacements for Jackson, none more persistent than Sam Raimi, another director with a line of box-office smashes and experience with high-budget thrillers.
But just when it seemed that Raimi’s name could be written into the “Director” box, Peter Jackson’s name began to resurface in connection with the film.
New Line has been in a box-office slump since 2005’s Wedding Crashers, and it desperately needs The Hobbit to reverse its fortunes, just as The Fellowship of the Ring film did in 2001.
In July 2007 Bob Shaye was asked if there were truth to the rumor that he had been in negotiations with Peter Jackson’s representatives. He responded: “Yes, that’s a fair statement. Notwithstanding our personal quarrels, I really respect and admire Peter and would love for him to be creatively involved in some way in The Hobbit”.
There has been further rumors that New Line would like to break The Hobbitup into two films, though that seems rather excessive to me, given the relative brevity of the novel itself. We know Hollywood, however, and if they believe they can make two blockbusters out of one they will gladly do it.
OVERVIEW OF LEGAL RIGHTS
The legal rights behind The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films have a somewhat complicated history. Here is a brief timeline:
- 1969 – JRR Tolkien sells the film rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to United Artists/MGM
- 1976 – United Artists/MGM sells the film rights to Saul Zaentz for $10,000
- 1977 – Zaentz forms Tolkien Enterprises to deal solely with the film rights to Tolkien’s works.
- 1977 – Rankin Bass releases made-for-TV animated film adaptation of The Hobbit
- 1978 – Zaentz produces an animated version of The Lord of the Rings, directed by animator Ralph Bakshi. This film covered approximately the first half of The Lord of the Rings narrative.
- 1980 – Rankin Bass releases animated version of The Return of the King
- 1997 – Saul Zaentz sells the film rights to Miramax studios
- 1998 – New Line Cinemas purchases the film rights from Miramax
That covers the most of the complex legal history of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings film rights.
So, it appears that The Hobbit will be made, though who will be in the director’s seat when that happens is still up in the air.
Will they resist the urge to make Bilbo’s “magic ring” into the sinister One Ring? Some foreshadowing of its menacing power might be appropriate, but I can foresee darkened scenes and eerie music whenever the Ring is involved, which would not be appropriate to the story. We’ll just have to wait and see.